Striking Nurses, ARH Reach No Agreement After Three Days Of Talks

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Three days of meetings between
representatives of Appalachian Regional Healthcare and nurses who
have been striking in two states for a month ended Wednesday in an
impasse.
"The last three days of negotiations have been disappointing,"
officials with Kentucky and West Virginia nurses' associations said
in a statement. "We are and will be ready to be flexible and
creative. It is frustrating that Appalachian Regional Healthcare
CEO Jerry Haynes does not yet share our willingness to resolve
these issues."
Both sides had been meeting with a federal mediator since
Monday, but reached no agreement. Another meeting with the mediator
was scheduled for Nov. 6.
The Appalachian nurses said they offered their complete proposal
to ARH - the region's largest healthcare provider. However, ARH
officials countered in a statement Tuesday, "it has become
apparent that the strike is over money and not patient care issues
the union has publicly cited."
The company said the nurses' three-year proposal includes a
request for a 7 percent salary increase annually, additional sick
time and increases in differentials, standby pay and ambulance run
compensation.
In the days before the strike, ARH issued its "final offer" to
the nurses, which included an initial 2 percent pay raise and
flexible schedules, allowing nurses to work 10- and 12-hour shifts.
ARH says that the additional cost of the package the nurses
presented over three years would be approximately $28 million, or
$40 million if extended to four years - a cost that the system
can't absorb.
"We believe that doing what's healthy for our future means
investing wisely in new services, technology and our people, yet
also keeping our healthcare costs in check," Haynes said on
Wednesday.
But Pat Tanner, the lead negotiator for the nurses, called the
request for a 7 percent salary increase "a starting point."
ARH is one of the region's largest health care providers and
owns seven hospitals in Kentucky and two in West Virginia. About
630 nurses in both states walked off the job following the
expiration of their contract Sept. 30.
Since then, 170 ARH nurses have either remained at work despite
the strike or returned to work after the strike began, Haynes said.
Two women filed a lawsuit earlier this month contending they
were fired from their jobs as recreational therapists at Hazard ARH
Psychiatric Center for taking sodas and snacks to striking nurses
outside a nearby hospital on the first day of the strike.
ARH spokeswoman Candy Elkins said again Tuesday that the company denies the allegations in the lawsuit.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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